Urbanites Read News Differently Than Their Rural Counterparts

For one thing, they're more interested in night clubs and restaurants.

City and suburban residents are more interested in local culture and restaurant news — and are more likely to get that information from many different sources —than people living in rural areas, according to a report published yesterday.

The Internet & American Life Project report (PDF) published by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research organization, reveals that city and suburban dwellers are more likely to consume local news via digital sources and to seek out information on topics like traffic and nightclubs. 

The report compares four community types — large cities, suburbs, small cities, and rural areas — and sampled just over 2,000 adults via telephone in January 2011. Roughly 70 percent in each of the four types reported regularly following local news.

A larger share of respondents in small-town and rural areas relied solely on traditional media sources, such as television, radio, and print newspapers, for local coverage. Almost half of city and city-suburb residents (45 and 51 percent, respectively) reported following traditional media in addition to online and mobile sources, versus 38 percent in small cities and 27 percent in rural areas (see chart below). About a third of small-city and rural residents reported relying only on traditional sources.

Chart courtesy of "How people get local news and information in different communities" (PDF)

City respondents also sought out local news from many different places: one in five respondents relied on six or more sources weekly, compared to about one in ten in rural areas (see chart below). Roughly half in all four community types rely on 3 to 5 sources per week, and about a third in each type regularly follow 1 to 2 sources.

Chart courtesy of "How people get local news and information in different communities" (PDF)

The popularity of local news topics only varied between community types in a few categories. Of the 16 local topics in the report, weather was the most popular overall (89 percent of respondents follow the topic). Breaking news came in second, followed by politics/campaigns/elections, crime, and arts/cultural events. Among those categories, there were "statistically significant" differences across types in only five categories: housing, arts and culture, restaurants, bars, and clubs, taxes, and traffic and transportation (see chart below).

Chart courtesy of "How people get local news and information in different communities" (PDF)

Suburban respondents were most likely to follow each of these five topics. The report notes that rural respondents were least likely to follow four out of the five topics (they were more interested in taxes than both small and large city respondents), although that may be a bit of a chicken-or-egg question:

"What is unclear is whether rural residents are less likely to follow these topics because of less intrinsic interest or because these activities are less common or less relevant in their rural community than is the case in urban or suburban communities. Presumably, the latter would offer more choices in these arenas, and would garner more local coverage."

The report also states that 41 percent overall had engaged in some form of online news interacting (such as commenting on an article or emailing a link), although suburban (53 percent) and city residents (45 percent) were more likely to do so. City residents were more likely to post on social networks or Twitter, comment, or tag online. Suburban residents were most likely to email links on local news.

Chart courtesy of "How people get local news and information in different communities" (PDF)

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